A one-day high level roundtable on ‘Dual Citizenship and the Constitution: Identifying issues and Rights for Constitution Review’ held last Friday at the Monrovia City Hall ended with a call for further discussion and education to let Liberians understand its positive and negative implications.
The fourth in the series, and organized by the Governance Commission, (GC) in collaboration with the Constitution Review Committee (CRC), and supported by the United Nations Development Program, (UNDP), panelists presented arguments for and against, and entertained questions from the audience.
Moderated by Cllr. Cyril Jones, Adjunct Professor of Constitutional Law at the Louis Arthur Grimes School of Law, the symposium included seven panelists, including Rev. Emmanuel Bowier, former Minister of Information, Cllr. Pearl Brown-Bull and Ms. Mamensie Kaba, a student leader at the AME University.
Others were Mr. Anthony Kessely, president of the Union of Liberian Associations in the Americas (ULAA) and Cllr. Negbalee Warner.
Plenary discussions included five distinguished Liberians, including Dr. Jallah Barbu, Professor of Constitutional Law and Chairman, Law Reform Commission, Senator Armah Jallah, President Pro Tempore of the Senate, and House Speaker Alex Tyler.
Other participants included Cllr. Gloria Musu Scott, chairperson, Constitution Review Commission, Deputy Commissioner of Bureau of Immigration and Naturalization, Peter Zayzay, who presented a document as the BIN’s contribution to the discussion, River Gee Senator Conmany B. Wisseh and Cllr. Winston Tubman, among others.
The question as to whether Liberia should amend its constitution to allow Liberian citizens to take up citizenship of other countries was raised and panelists and floor members discussed its positive and negative implications.
It became clear that, according to some of the panelists, due to perceived ‘fears,’ many Liberians are not comfortable to draw too much attention to the subject of dual citizenship. However, it was also acknowledged that thousands of Liberians are living in other countries and have acquired those citizenships.
“Therefore, to insist that those Liberians would lose their nationality because they have acquired other citizenships, when they feel truly that they are still Liberians and want to contribute to their country will not be the right thing to do,” a panelist argued.
Particular references were made to the 1847 Constitution and its successor, the 1986 Constitution that prescribed citizenship in restricted terms, as well as Annex 1: Part 111 of the Nationality and Naturalization of Aliens and Nationality Law of Liberia.
“The fear factor in the dual citizenship argument must be identified and addressed,” was the conclusion of several panelists while others maintained that the issue must rest for now until Liberians are matured enough to discuss it.
The symposium focused on dual-citizenship’s constitutional implications and their suggestions would contribute to the CRC’s effort to perfect its preparation for the National Constitution Conference, according to Dr. Amos C. Sawyer, GC chairman.
Many commended the Governance Commission and its partners for the symposia but urged a rigorous education on the subject to let the Liberian public understand what it means to have dual-citizenship, with its advantages and disadvantages, taking into account thousands of Liberians who have sought refuge abroad due to the 14-year civil-crisis and sought citizenships in countries in which they are residing, while they wish to be treated on equal terms with Liberians at home.